Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Sad Farewell to Google Reader (+ Feedly Follow Button)

I was a little surprised when I read the Google Reader sign-in screen yesterday.  It asked me if I was having trouble keeping up with the sites I visit.  If so, it told me, I could read them in one place, at Google Reader, where keeping up with my favorite websites is as easy as checking my email.  It offered me the opportunity to use Reader to stay up to date, to share with my friends, and use anywhere.  (You can click on the image to enlarge it and read for yourself.)

But then I signed in and read the following reminder:  "Google Reader will not be available after July 1, 2013...."

Such sorrow.  It took me a few years to begin using Reader and now it's going.  Anyone who knows me or who has read my blog may be aware that I find tech changes difficult.  It takes me too much time to learn how to maneuver through the new, time I could better use for other things (like finding or learning more about my ancestors).  Reader's leaving leaves me no choice.  I suppose some would suggest it's just helping me improve my tech skills.

So I'm following some with Feedly and some with Bloglovin'.  Bloglovin' offers a subscribe button but as far as I can tell, Feedly hasn't created one for us to use.  Not to despair:  some other techy blogger has.  (You can see the button on the sidebar below Google Friend Connect Members (if that still exists after July 1.))  If you'd like to have a Feedly subscribe button of your own, go to this post at Lokakid where you can find the html code and instructions in both English and Dutch.   You can also get Feedly buttons at the Feedly Button Factory.

Good-bye, Google Reader.  I will miss you!


Saturday, June 29, 2013

Receipts - Shopping Saturday

Do you remember receiving hand-written receipts, usually given for rent or services purchased?  The blank receipts were often bound in a booklet, stapled on the left.  As the money was given, the recipient of the money wrote a receipt, filling in blanks for the name of the payer, date, amount, purpose of the payment, etc.

As I was searching Butler County, Pennsylvania, probate records at FamilySearch, I began to notice the beauty of some of the old receipts in the files.  Screenshots were easy enough to make so I could share them with you. (Unfortunately, none of these receipts were for purchases by or in behalf of any of my ancestors.)

I hope you enjoyed these beautiful illustrations. 


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Across the Years

"When I try to classify my earliest impressions, I find that fact and fancy look alike across the years that link the past with the present.  The woman paints the child's experiences in her own fantasy."
Helen Keller, The Story of My Life, p. 1  

I was an adult when I first read this book.  I was amazed that a person without sight and so young (she was 22 when she wrote it) could describe things she could not see with such vivid imagery.  

When I perused the book again a few days ago, those sentences in the opening paragraph caught my eye.  I suppose that most of us are like Helen:  fact and fancy, truth and fantasy mix as we remember our own childhoods.

Helen was born on this day in 1880.  Today is designated as Helen Keller Day in the United States.  Happy Birthday, Helen.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

W is for Weddings - Family History Through the Alphabet

W is for weddings (not to be confused with marriages).

My ancestors knew the definition of marriage as
a : the state of being married
b : the mutual relationship of husband and wife : wedlock
c : the institution whereby men and women are joined in a special kind of social and legal dependence for the purpose of founding and maintaining a family

On the other hand, they referred to a wedding as the marriage ceremony and the festivities associated with that ceremony.

In all of my family history research I've found many marriage records.  But I have information on only two weddings:  my parents' and the wedding of my maternal grandfather's brother and his bride.

Jacob Meinzen and Nellie E. Leonhart were married on June 28, 1906.  The wedding was described in The Steubenville Weekly Gazette.  It was "a pretty home wedding" at the residence of the bride on 808 Sherman Avenue, Steubenville.  
The cosy home was fitted up for the happy event, and presented an attractive appearance.  Promptly at 4 o'clock the bridal couple entered the parlor to the strains of the wedding march, accompanied by Miss Mina Meinsen, sister of the groom, and Mr. Phil Leonhart, brother of the bride, and took their places before the officiating clergyman, Rev. Rowland, pastor of the Third Presbyterian church, who officiated in a beautiful service.  The bride was becomingly gowned in white Persian lawn, trimmed with lace, and her bridesmaid was also prettily gowned in white.  After the ceremony, congratulations were showered upon the happy pair, and at a later hour a nice wedding supper was served, covers being laid for twenty-five. 
The only additional information I could wish for is a photograph of the bride and groom and a list of the attendees.  I would like to see what her white Persian lawn gown trimmed with lace looked like.  Beautiful, I'm sure.

My parents were married on September 15, 1938.  Their wedding was described in The Niles Daily Times.
     At 7:30 last evening in the Methodist Church at Mineral Ridge, Miss Audrey Meinzen, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Meinzen, Mineral Ridge, was united in marriage to Lee Doyle, 360 Warren ave., Niles.
     Rev. Robert S. Clemmons heard the exchange of vows.
     Mr. and Mrs. Earl Tuxford of Niles were formal attendants and Howard Todd of Mineral Ridge and James W. Sullivan of Warren were ushers.
     Mrs. Phoebe Johnson, Mineral Ridge, presided at the organ for a program of nuptial melodies and Mrs. James Woodward, also of Mineral Ridge, was soloist, her numbers including "O Promise Me" and "I Love You Truly."  The Bridal Chorus from Lohengrin was used for the processional and Mendelssohn's wedding march for the recessional.
     The altar was banked with palms and ferns and decorated with standards of garden flowers.
     Given in marriage by her father, Miss Meinzen was a lovely bride in her blue velvet gown with harmonizing accessories.  She carried an arm bouquet of pink roses.
     Mrs. Tuxford chose dubonet with matching accessories and she carried garden flowers.
     Multi-colored garden flowers decorated the Meinzen home on Furnace st. when the immediate famlies and a few friends were received following the ceremony.  A tiered wedding cake with the conventional bride and groom decorated the refreshment table.
     Late in the evening the young couple left for a short honeymoon, their destination a secret.  For traveling, the bride wore a modish two piece ensemble with accessories to match....
I have no photographs of this wedding, either, but my mother saved a booklet in which guests signed their names.  (More on that later.)  I do so wish to have been able to see her dress and my father's suit.

This post was written as a contribution to the Family History Through the Alphabet challenge created by Alona Tester of Genealogy & History News.  Thanks, Alona.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

V is for Vital Records - Family History Through the Alphabet

V is for vital records:  birth, marriage, and death records.  In some ways these records are a family historian's best friend.  They offer names of individuals plus dates and locations of the events for which they were created, and sometimes plenty of other information, too.  (Click on the image below to enlarge and view three vital records.)
Even though these types of records were created at or near the time of the event, we need to be careful not to take every bit of information in a document as absolute truth.  If a birth record was created days, weeks, or a month after the birth, the father providing information for the certificate may not have remembered the exact date of birth and may have calculated it based on the day he mowed the hay.  In the case of a marriage record, young lovers may have chosen not to provide completely accurate information regarding age.  Information on death certificates was sometimes provided by friends, relatives, or in-laws who didn't know details like the decedent's birth location or the names of his or her parents.  If provided by a spouse or child, grief may have clouded the memory or caused questions to be misunderstood thereby allowing for misinformation.  It is best to use the information in vital records in conjunction with other sources.

The years when vital records were first created vary from country to country and state to state.  Often marriages in the U.S. were the first to be recorded, sometimes as early as 1800.  Births and deaths were recorded at the county level in some states beginning in the 1860s, then moving to the state level in the early 1900s.

A search on the internet will help you find when and where to search for these records.  FamilySearch and have indexed many vital records.  FamilySearch's wiki provides more information about birth records, marriage records, and death records.  FamilySearch also provides an excellent page about U.S. Vital Records, including what you may find in a record, how to analyze what you find, and links to information about vital records for each state.

If you are new to family history, I encourage you to begin with vital records (as well as census records) to help you find your ancestors.  If you're not new to searching for ancestors, I'm sure you already know the worth of vital records

This post was written as a contribution to Family History Through the Alphabet challenge created by Alona Tester of  Genealogy & History News.  Thank you, Alona.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Women Working, 1800-1930 - Tuesday's Tip

If you are like me, you enjoy adding depth to research about your female ancestors by learning about the context of their lives, the time periods in which they lived, and the environment, work, and leisure activities which may have occupied their time.

A site that may be of interest to you is Harvard University Library's Women Working, 1800-1930.  Before exploring this site, I assumed that it focused on women who worked as wage earners, either at home or outside the home.  There are parts of the website that focus on this kind of work, but there are many other resources for all kinds of work (and leisure activities) performed by women and the work of women's organizations.

You can search the website or browse by key events, notable people, or topic.  A brief timeline is also available.  Within the timeline are links to some of the resources in Women Working.

The collection includes scanned images of
  • books and pamphlets for perusal by region, by topic, by types of work
  • diaries and memoirs of a farmer, actress, school teacher, and secretary
  • institutional records including those from trade unions and bureaus; scrapbooks; and others
  • key organizations relating to women who worked outside the home such as Bureau of Labor Statistics, National American Woman Suffrage Association, National Women's Trade Union League of America, Vocational Adjustment Bureau, Women's Educational and Industrial Union (WEIU)
  • magazines that were either written by women or for women, including some issues of The Delineator, Dorcas Magazine, The Ladies' Home Journal, Woman's Home Companion, among others.
  • manuscripts include correspondence, diaries, journals, albums, and scrapbooks
  • photographs include individual photographs and albums
  • trade catalogs for beauty products, toiletries, and pharmaceuticals; clothing; groceries and recipes; home appliances and technology; household goods; machinery; medicine; office and school supplies; reading materials; recreation; and transportation.  These are delightful because they are illustrated -- and there are so many

This is part of the description from the website:
Though it is a relatively recent field of study, women's history is inscribed across all of the Harvard Library holdings gathered since 1638.  By examining those holdings afresh and querying them in a new and feminist light, the curators of Women Working have aggregated thousands of items that cast light on women's history.  The result is a unique virtual collection, comprising over 650,000 individual pages from more than 3,100 books and trade catalogs, 900 archives and manuscript items, and 1,400 photographs.

Women Working is a digital exploration of women's impact on the economic life of the United States between 1800 and the Great Depression.  Working conditions, workplace regulations, home life, costs of living, commerce, recreation, health and hygiene, and social issues are among the issues documented in this online research collection from Harvard University.
Images of the pages are shown full size, which means you'll have to scroll vertically to see them in sections.  Some pages have the option to reduce the size, some do not.  Images cannot be pinned on Pinterest but they can be downloaded and saved for future reference/use. 

There is more at this website than can be read in one day.  For this reason, I believe it will become one of my go-to websites, along with HEARTH, when I want to research the time periods of my female (and sometimes male) ancestors.  I hope you may find it useful, too.


Copyright ©2013-2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved. .

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Hard on the Heels of Christian Gerner & Family

Some obituaries are thrilling to read because they give so much family history information:  birth and death dates, the names of spouse, parents, siblings, and children (though occasionally obituaries can lead researchers astray if not more fully investigated and corroborated with other evidence).  The obituaries below are for Emma Gerner and Alfred Vensel.  Based on other research and the information in Emma's obituary, I am certain she is the sister of my great-grandfather, Fred Gerner, and the daughter of Christian Gerner, the man whose census records I have been tracking (under the names of Garner and Gardner).

I was especially pleased to read that Emma's brother, Christian, lived in California.  I'm certain he's the same Christian (with wife Amanda) whose census records recorded them living in West Virginia in 1910 and in Anaheim, California, in 1920 and 1930, and Amanda as a widow in 1940.

I'm sending a request to the Orange County Clerk-Recorder for a copy of the younger Christian's death certificate.  I hope it will name both parents.  I'm also waiting for Emma's and Alfred's Pennsylvania death certificates.

From the Butler Citizen, Thursday, April 12, 1906, p. 2

   Alfred Vensel of Chicora, aged 59 years, shot himself through the head, last Thursday evening, and died almost instantly.  He is survived by his wife, who is blind, one son and three daughters.

From the Parker Phoenix, Friday, April 13, 1906, p. 4

---Afred Vensel aged 56 years, a carpenter and builder, of Chicora, committed suicide Thursday evening by shooting himself through the head with a rifle.  His friends are at a loss to account for his deed.

From the Butler Eagle, Saturday, December 9, 1922, p. 7

Mrs. Emma Vensel Funeral
   The funeral of the late Mrs. Emma Vensel, whose death occurred Friday, will be held Sunday at 1:30 from the home of her daughter, Mrs. D. S. McGuire, 616 Fairview avenue.  Interment will be in the White Oak cemetery, near Chicora.

From the Butler County Record, Thursday, December 14, 1922, p. 8

Mrs. Emma Vensel
     Mrs. Emma Vensel, aged 76, widow of the later Alfred Vensel, died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. D. S. McGuire, Fairview avenue, Butler, December 7.  Her father was the late Christian Gerner.  She was born in Germany but came to America when a small child.  Most of her life has been spent in Petrolia and Chicora where she was well known.  For the past six years she had resided here with her daughter.  Children survive as follows:  Mrs. E. R. Parker and Mrs. D. S. McGuire, Butler; Mrs. E. L. Guthrie, Sapulpa, Okla.; John V. Vensel, Nashport, Ohio; also three brothers, Fred Gerner, Bruin; Charles Gerner, Butler; Christian Gerner, California; also eight grandchildren and one great grandchild.  Funeral services were held December 10 at the home of her daughter where she died and interment was in White Oak cemetery near Chicora.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Lessons from My Father

My father, Lee Doyle, was nearly 37 when I was born.  While I was a child he worked shifts at a steel mill, often 12-hour days or nights instead of the usual 8.  In addition to his 40- to 60-hour/week regular job, he had a small business repairing watches and clocks and sold jewelry.  He also owned several rental homes that often seemed in need of repair, not to mention the upkeep and repairs to our own home, all of which he did himself.  I don't remember much play time with Dad:  his schedule was heavy with work and home responsibilities.

After Dad passed away my mom claimed that he was a workaholic.  It's true he worked hard and was frequently working at one thing or another, but I disagree with my mom.  I don't think he worked just because he loved it.  I believe he worked to provide an income for his family, because he knew the work needed done, and because it cost less to do it himself than to hire someone to do it.  I think my father was often tired.

In many respects Dad was a stern man.  There were certain expectations of behavior in our home and not too much leniency.  I think he expected of his children the same dedication to work, high morals, and self-motivation that he had.

Dad often taught in similes.  I cannot think of a specific one but I can often remember telling him something that I wanted to do and he would say, "Well, now, that would be like..." and then go on to explain further.  Sometimes it was effective and sometimes his similes passed over my head.

I have been thinking recently of the lessons I learned growing up in my parents' home, especially the lessons I learned from my father.  So many of them were not spoken with words but with his actions and behavior. 
  1. Do your best.  The next time, do better than the previous time.
  2. Improve yourself and your circumstance.  I don't remember either of my parents using words to teach us to be our best or to aim for self-improvement but somehow that message impressed itself on me.  We were a middle- or lower-middle-class family but the expectation was that we would learn proper manners, be honest at all times, become educated, and improve our circumstances.
  3. Work hard.  Work until the job is done, even if you can only work on it a little at a time.  Be persisent, consistent, and finish the job.  And make sure it's done as well as you can do it.
I'm thankful for the lessons I absorbed from my father when I was a child.  They've held me in good stead over the years.  Thank you, Dad.  Happy Father's Day.  I love you.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

U is for Ubiquitous - Family History Through the Alphabet

ubiquitous  \ yü-ˈbi-kwə-təs \  adj.  existing or being everywhere at the same time  :  constantly encountered  :  widespread
We'll go with "constantly encountered" and "widespread" for this post.  I'm thinking of those things which are or seem to be ubiquitous to family historians and genealogists.  Let's start with these, in no particular order.
  • family group sheets
  • pedigree charts
  • ancestors
  • sources
  • birth records
  • newspapers
  • journals
  • marriage records
  • FamilySearch
  • obituaries
  • Evidence Explained
  • genealogy blogs
  • death records
  • timelines
  • libraries
  • repositories
  • National Archives
  • church records
  • letters 
  • census records
  • tombstones
  • maps
  • clerks (courthouse, vital record office, cemetery, etc.)
  • brick walls

Can you add to my list of what's ubiquitous to family historians and genealogists?

This post is a contribution to Alona Tester's Family History Through the Alphabet challenge at Genealogy and History News.  Thanks for creating and sharing this challenge, Alona.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Source Box at FamilySearch - Tuesday's Tip

I haven't read any posts about My Source Box.  It's a helpful tool that shouldn't be overlooked.

You'll need an account to use Source Box -- and I think you'll want one if you perform searches and find documents on FamilySearch.  If you have an account you will already have a Source Box.  (If you don't have an account click the "Sign In" box in the upper right, then the "Create An Account" box and follow the instructions.)

After you've signed in, search for a document.  When you've found one for an ancestor, or even one that you'd like to look at again, after viewing it, return to the screen with the transcribed information (as shown below). 

On the right side of the screen you'll see a box that looks like the one to the right.  If you click "Add to My Source Box," information about the document of interest will be added to your source box.

To see the document, click "Go to My Source Box."

In your Source Box you'll see that all new documents go to a "home" folder.  From there, you can add folders, naming them in whatever system works for you, and move the documents to their appropriate folders.  You can see below that I haven't added a Meinzen folder yet or moved the two Gerner documents to their appropriate folders.

Having the names of the documents is great, but it gets better!  Click on one of the sources and you'll see several options (see below).  You'll be able to see and copy the url for the image and return to view it with a single click.  You'll be able to see the source citation for the document.  And, if you already have a family tree in FamilySearch FamilyTree, you'll be able to attach the source to a person in that tree.

I'm thrilled that FamilySearch has made it possible to connect documents to individuals in family trees with a single click.  I think FamilySearch just keeps getting better and better.  If you haven't used Source Box, I encourage you to explore its options.

Do you already use My Source Box?  What do you think of it?


Monday, June 10, 2013

Tracking Down Christian, Son of Christian

While waiting for obituaries for Alfred and Emma Gerner Vensel to arrive from the Butler Area Public Library Obituary Index I decided to see if I could find Emma's brother, Christian.  The 1860, 1870, and 1880 U.S. Census records for their father, Christian Gerner/Garner/Gardner, indicate that his fifth child and third son is Christian Gerner, born about 1854.  My great-grandfather, Fred Gerner, is likely the brother of Emma and Christian.  Below are overviews of the records I found for a man named Christian Gerner who was born in Pennsylvania in 1854.

As far as I can see, through marriage, census, and death records, the names and ages follow along almost exactly.  The only obvious discrepancy is Christian's month of birth, stated as July on his marriage record and June in the 1900 census.    I believe this is the son of Christian and the brother of my great-grandfather Fred Gerner.  I plan to order a death certificate for Christian and hope to find obituaries for Christian and Amanda/Mandy in Google newspapers.

Marriage, 22 October 1886, Butler County, Pennsylvania
Christian Gerner, born on 12 July 1854, in Clarion County, Pennsylvania
residing in Washington, Washington County, Pennsylvania, occupation was Driller
Amanda Daubenspeck, born on May 16, 1858, in Armstrong County, Pennsylvania
residing in Clarion County, Pennsylvania

1900 U.S. Census, North Franklin Township, South Washington Borough, Washington County, Penna., E.D. 148, sheet #5, page #238A, family #75, lines 14-17
  • Christian Gerner, born June 1854, 45 years old, married 13 years, born Penna, parents born Germany, oil pumper
  • Amanda Gerner, wife, born May 1858, 42 years, married 13 years, born Penna, parents born Penna
  • Maurice L. Gerner, son, born January 1890, 10 years, born Penna, parents born Penna
  • Russel D. Gerner, son, born Jul 1892, 7 years, born Penna, parents born Penna

1910 U. S. Census, McKim Disrict, Pleasants County, West Virginia, E. D. 62, Sheet #8B, family #140, lines 70-73
  • Gerner Christian, 55 years, married 24 years, born Penna, parents born Germany, pumper/oil lease
  • -------- Amanda, wife, 51 years, married 24 years, born Penna, parents born Penna
  • -------- Morris L, son, 20 years, single, born Penna, parents born Penna, pumper/oil lease
  • -------- Russell D, son, 17 years, single, born Penna, parents born Penna

1920 U.S. Census, Anaheim City, Anaheim Township, Orange County, California, E.D. 52, sheet #6A, page #163, family #144, lines 11-13
  • Gerner Christian, 65 years, born Penna, parents born Germany, no trade/profession
  • -------- Amanda J, wife, 61 years, born Penna, parents born Penna
  • -------- Russell, son, 27 years, single, born Penna, parents born Penna, no trade/profession

1930 U.S. Census, Anaheim City, Orange County, California, E. D. #20-1, written sheet #5A, page #5, family #115, lines 31-34
  • Gerner Christen, 75 years, 32 years at first marriage, born Penna, parents born Germany, retired
  • -------- Mandy J, wife, 71 years, 28 years at first marriage, born Penna, parents born Penna
  • -------- Morris L, son, 40 years, divorced, 21 years at first marriage, born Penna, parents born Penna, oil driller/oil field
  • -------- Russell D, son, 37 years, single, born Penna, parents born Penna, oil driller/oil field

1940 U.S. Census, Anaheim City, Orange County, California, E.D. 30-2, sheet 316A, household #428, lines 38-39
  • Gerner Maurice L, head, 50 years, divorced, born Penna, oil worker/fields 
  • -------- Amanda, mother, 81 years, widow, born Penna

The 1940 census indicates that Christian died between 1930 and 1940.  I searched the California Death Index, 1905-1939 and learned that Christian died on October 9, 1935.  For Amanda's death information I search the California Death Index, 1940-1997, also at FamilySearch and learned that she died on July 22, 1953.

I hope that Christian's death certificate will give his parents' names and that an obituary might contribute even more information.  I just have to order one and find the other.  (I especially wish that California death certificates were available free online somewhere.) 


Friday, June 7, 2013

T is for Timelines - Family History Through the Alphabet

I think of timelines as one of those essential tools to help find gaps in information about an ancestor; to help discover possible inconsistencies; and to help place an ancestor in his environmental setting at any particular time.  Timelines may be especially useful when trying to figure out where to turn next to find more  information about an ancestor.  I think they are a concise way to see an overview of an ancestor's life.

I include every event I learn about an ancestor and note the date (of course!) and geographic location where the event took place.  I think it's important to include a note in the timeline after each entry giving abbreviated source details about where you found the information.  (You'll have recorded a full citation elsewhere, such as in your genealogy software program.)

Sometimes dates and ages are calculated from a census, other times the record gives the age and date.  Here are some of the things I include in my timelines.  Possible sources are in parentheses.
  • Birth dates and ages of the focus ancestor and every member of his/her family (civil record, church record, newspaper announcement, obituary, gravestone, death record, interment record)
  • Baptism, christening, confirmation  (church records, possibly newspaper announcements)
  • Immigration information (passenger lists)
  • Naturalization (county or federal government records)
  • Marriage (government or church documents, calculated from some census records, newspaper announcements)
  • Divorce (government documents, vital statistics in some newspapers)
  • Property purchases and sales (county records)
  • Military service (government documents, newspaper articles)
  • Moves/relocations (census records, city/county directories, newspaper articles)
  • Wills (county records, newspaper announcements)
  • Deaths of individual and all family members (government records, church records, grave markers, obituaries, interment records)

I think of timelines as working tools, subject to change as I learn more information about my ancestor.  If a birth year is calculated from a census record, I may learn more accurate information from some other source, and then I change it and make an additional note about where I found the information.

Timelines sometimes help me sort out information.
  • Ages:  Is the mother old enough to have a child, too old to have a child?  Are the children spaced at least 9 months apart?  Is there a wide age gap (3 or more years) between siblings?  Perhaps a child was stillborn or died without being recorded in a census.
  • Immigration:  If an ancestor is located in a distant city two days after his ship arrived in the U.S., perhaps they are two different people. 
  • Moves:  If the ancestor is in different locations in consecutive census records, it can narrow down the date he moved to at least 10 years.  Additional research (city/county directories, state census reports, property records) may help narrow the move even further.
  • Local and world events:  I include these if I suspect my ancestor immigrated (from any location to another) because of problems in his homeland or previous location.  Knowing that the community scorned people from his homeland would help me understand a move to a new community.  War may be another reason for an ancestor to move.

I've noticed that many people like to make horizontal timelines, probably because we think of time as horizontally linear (at least I do).  I find a vertical timeline easier to use when I know I'm going to be adding information.  Using a computer I can insert dates and just move the information below it down.

Your genealogy software program may be helpful to you.  If you've included as much information as you know about an ancestor you may be able to use it to begin a timeline.  By clicking on an ancestor's page in RootsMagic, it shows me the date of every event I've added for that person.  That will be a good basis for an even more extended timeline (or incentive to add all the information to the software program). 

For more information about timelines
  • Do a google image search with the words "timeline family history" and see how others have created timelines.
  • Look at FamilySearch's US Timelines - Creation and Use with Families or Family Tree Magazine's  Create a Personal Timeline where you can read more suggestions and ideas about timelines.
  • For those researching in the United Kingdom, the BBC Timeline Tool gives a nice historic overview of national and local events that may help you understand more about your ancestor's situation and the reason for some of his/her decisions.
I've posted three timeslines:  Elvira Bartley Gerner - Her Years from Birth to Burial, Timeline for Harry Hepler, and Every Scrap of Evidence - Timeline for Henry Meinzen.  They are not perfect timelines but they helped at the time I was researching the individual.

This post was created to participate in Alona Tester's Family History Through the Alphabet challenge at Genealogy and History News.  Thanks, Alona. 


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Thankful Thursday

As I was struggling along searching for one of Fred Gerner's brothers last night I was thinking how hard it is to know if this John or that John might be Fred's brother.  How could I even guess which one might be the right one so I could do further research?  In the absence of family records, census records are my best first resource.  In this situation, their biggest help may be that they recorded ages.

I'm feeling particularly grateful to whoever came up with the idea for indexing census records and grateful for those Works Progress Administration (WPA) employees who so carefully cataloged and recorded each individual name on cards.  I'm thankful for Robert C. Russell and Margaret K. Odell who created the Soundex system, that phonetic algorithm that indexes names and allows us to find them in a census.  The Soundex is not as commonly used now as in previous decades but it provided my very first acquaintance with genealogy research in the census.

I'm thankful to more modern indexers at FamilySearch and and all other companies whose work allows us to more easily find an ancestor who might otherwise be lost in a sea of records.  Imagine having to search a census page by page to find an ancestor.  I've done it but rarely need to and I'm grateful for that.

I'm grateful for electronic devices which make document images available online and for download.  I'm thankful for computers, scanners, and computer programs which make record-keeping of documents pertaining to and photographs of my family organized (somewhat -- at least as far as I am organized) and more easily accessible to me.  With a few clicks I can look at the census record of my great-grandmother and with another click or two, look at her photograph.

Sometimes I take things for granted but just now, I'm very thankful.


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Emma Garner & Alfred Vensel - Wedding Wednesday

Brendice Gerner Davis said of her father Fred Gerner's sister, "there was a girl Emma who married Alf Heusel [or Hensel]."  I was unable to find Emma and Alf Heusel or Hensel in any census record or, for that matter, anywhere on FamilySearch or ancestry.  But I found that the Butler Area Library Obituary Index had indexed a newspaper article about the marriage of Emma Garner and Alfred Vensel.  I ordered it and this is what I received. 

    On the 21st ult., at the residence of the bride's father, by Rev. Shade, Mr. Alfred Vensel to Miss Emma Garner, both of Fairview tp., Butler co.
   The above couple have our best wishes.  Alfred may your voyage over the ocean of life, be one of prosperity and happiness.                                Me.  

This notice was published in the Butler County Democratic Herald on February 10, 1869.  Based on this information, their marriage date would have been January 21, 1869.

Looking over other information I'd already collected, I realized that Emma and Alfred lived next door to Christian Gardner (or Gerner) in the 1880 census.  Alfred was a carpenter and he and Emma had 4 children:  Laura, 10; John, 8; Maude, 5; and Ida, 3.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Gerner Collaterals

Sometimes the best next step is to search for the siblings of an ancestor.  When I can't find any more evidence of a relationship between my ancestor and his or her parent, one other hope is to find a relationship between my ancestor's siblings and his/her parents (assuming I can find siblings).

Fred Gerner is my ancestor of interest.  He was born between 1847 and 1849 in Germany and immigrated to the U.S. soon afterward.  Except for short stints in West Virginia and another in Mercer County, Pennsylvania, he lived most of his life in Butler County, Pennsylvania.  His Butler County locations included Fairview, Bruin, and Saxonburg.  Fred died on March 26, 1926, in Bruin, Butler County, Pennsylvania.

Christian Gerner was named as Fred's father on Fred's death certificate.  Searching U.S. Census records I've found the children listed below, including a boy named Fred, in the home of Christian Garner/Gardner in Butler County, Pennsylvania.

  • born about 1847 in Prussia
  • 13 in 1860
  • gone in 1870 census
  • born about 1849 in Prussia
  • 11 in 1860
  • 21 in 1870
  • gone in 1880
 Isabell in1860, Elizabeth in1870, Lizzie in 1880
  • born about 1851 in Prussia 
  • 9 in 1860
  • 19 in 1870
  • 29 in 1880
  • born about 1853 in PA
  • 7 in 1860
  • 17 in 1870
  • 27 in 1880
  • I have already received Charles's death certificate in which his father is named as Christan Gerner and his mother as Mary E. Sthal.
Christena in 1860, Christopher in 1870, Christian in 1880
  • born about 1854 in Pennsylvania
  • 6 in 1860
  • 16 in 1870
  • 25 in 1880
  • born about 1856 in PA
  • 4 in 1860
  • 14 in 1870
  • 23 in 1880
Having identified possible siblings of Fred Gerner, I can now proceed to search for them in other records.


Monday, June 3, 2013

Old Homestead, New Photo, Street Address

In the post Old Map, Current Map, Homestead I wrote about overlaying an old map onto a new one using ProQuest's Historic Map Works™ to find the location of my g-g-grandfather Dixon Bartley's homestead.  I felt certain that Dixon's homestead was on Bruin Road, west of Daubenspeck Road.

I closed that post with the words,"While I still don't have a street address, I think it would be fairly easy to find Dixon's home -- if I could only persuade my husband to go on a road trip...."  I have not yet persuaded my husband to drive to Bruin with me but the next best thing was having my brother and sister-in-law take the trip, find the home, and take photos of it.  Thank you, Bob and Eva!!!  I am beyond excited:  I am thrilled!

Courtesy of Google Earth

I am pleased to know that the house and nearby building are still standing and appear to be in decent condition.  There are some changes but all in all the structure looks good (at least from the outside).  I'm so sad that beautiful, long board walk is gone, though.

Bob said the number on the mail box was 121, and since they'd driven westward from Bruin, it would have seemed as though it was Washington Street.  But as I look at a current map I see that Washington Street turns into Bruin Road at Daubenspeck Road.  Dixon's property (according to the old map) and the homestead (according to Google Earth) are located west of Daubenspeck Road.

Courtesy of Google Maps
I did a little more research just to be sure I had it right, mapping 121 Bruin Road and 121 Washington Street.  I believe the address 121 Bruin Road, Bruin (or Petrolia, as it's known today) is correct.  (Click on the map at left to enlarge it.)

I was able to locate the names and address of owners of the property at the Butler County, Pennsylvania, auditor's website.  For their privacy I won't include that information here.

When I finally persuade my husband to go on that road trip, I'll contact the owners and see if they might be willing to give us a "tour" of the property and buildings.  How fabulous it would be to stand within the walls of the home where my ancestors walked, lived, cooked, ate, entertained, and slept.

Now, for the next step:  learn the history of the building.  Did Dixon build it himself?  If not, who built it?  And when?  Who inherited it and who owned it from then until now?  What changes took place within its walls?  Do you suppose it's possible? 


Copyright © 2010-2015 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

An Aged Aunt Remembers, or Putting Two and Two Together

My great-aunt Brendice Gerner Davis was in her 90s when I asked her about her father, Fred Gerner, his siblings and parents, and her own siblings.  Her memories were short on her grandparents:  she couldn't remember Fred's parents names at all.  But she gave me some information:

About Fred:
Place of birth:  Anaheim, Germany
Immigrated:  when 6 months old
- a girl Emma who married Alf Heusel
- a boy Charlie

Some time earlier (years, possibly decades) one of her daughters-in-law made notes as Aunt Brendice either answered questions or told stories.  I received a scan of the notes from Brendice's grandson.  Some of the information differs from the information she sent me.

About Fred:
Born in:  Mannheim, Germany
- Christian
- John
- Charlie
- Emma

What of this information should I have recognized earlier as correct?  Should I have assumed it was all correct?  I've searched for Alf and Emma Heusel with no success.  Absolutely none.  Correct or incorrect information?  I've searched for Gerners coming from Germany without any positive success, though there are some possibilities.  Correct or incorrect information?  (Even if I found immigration information I wouldn't assume it was the family when I know so little.  I think it's better to stay closer to home and gather as much as information as possible before jumping to another country with limited information.)

When I found Christian Garner and Christopher Gardner in the 1860, 1870, and 1880 U.S. Census records whose children had similar names I began to wonder how much of the information Aunt Brendice remembered could be accurate.  Perhaps more than I thought.

So I've begun the search for Fred Gerner's siblings as named above.  I've already found "Charlie" who became Charles.  I have leads on the others.  My hope is that death records will name Christian and Elizabeth/Mary E. Sthal (or variation) as the parents in marriage and/or death records and in obituaries.  Without a will or probate information for the older Christian Gerner, census records and marriage and death records are my obvious options for Fred's siblings.

I have always read that searching the collateral is sometimes helpful, sometimes essential.  I believe that in this circumstance, if I'm to make any progress, it's my only option.

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